‘The High Note’ sings the realities of the industry in a light-hearted way

Dakota Johnson stars as Maggie and Tracee Ellis Ross as Grace Davis in 'The High Note.'
Glen Davis/ Focus Features

A few names might pop in your head when you think of musical superstars that have made an impact on pop culture—Aretha Franklin, Elton John, The Beatles, Diana Ross—so it makes sense then, for Tracee Ellis Ross, daughter of the aforementioned musical giant to step into the shoes of a wildly talented singing diva in ‘The High Note.’

Along with Dakota Johnson, Ice Cube and June Diane Raphael, Ross and the cast of the new feature film directed by Nisha Ganatra explore the music industry and just what it takes to become a star—but more importantly, is it all really worth it?

Many who decide to throw their hat into the entertainment industry do so because they have a passion or a dream, and this story shows the different sides of fame. With Ross, she worked for what she has as songstress Grace Davis, a veteran performer with a dedicated fanbase who got her start years before the film takes place, but her career starts to teeter the line of has-been or re-invention when asking, what’s next? Ice Cube as Jack Robertson plays Davis’ right-hand man and manager with just as much experience growing up and trekking alongside the superstar from the beginning. Then, there’s Dakota Johnson’s Maggie, who is as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever. Playing Davis’ assistant, Maggie is seen on the go answering Davis’ every beck-and-call, a norm in this industry. The tricky part though, comes in when the assistant begins to make the leap to becoming a producer on her own time.

Glen Wilson / Focus Features

The film itself has all the feel-good ingredients that many starry-eyed fueled films have exhibited before, but the added star-powered cast certainly makes ‘The High Note’ entertaining to watch.

One point ‘The High Note’ does consistently make is the reality of the situations each character faces. Grace, who has had an illustrious career with plenty of fame, a lot of what most wannabe-musicians strive for. The problem is, the songstress is stuck on what path to take, and it seems that everyone from her producing team to her house-manager has an idea on what’s next, and what Grace wants herself isn’t exactly at the forefront of anyone’s mind. But that’s showbiz. It isn’t as glamorous as it seems, but it’s not all depressing.

Maggie herself is in awe of Grace, and makes that known. Their relationship is definitely friendly, but Grace is also quick to snap her assistant back to reality when necessary. Yet Ross as the somewhat-stuck-up celebrity still is able to bring a likable quality to the songstress persona, and even shows that she still has a passion for the industry that made her who she is.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. and Dakota Johnson in ‘The High Note.’ Glen Wilson / Focus Features

Johnson as Maggie is also a perfect fit. As an assistant, her aura still rings innocent, which is also what landed Johnson her ’50 Shades of Gray’ role, but as an aspiring producer, she’s ambitious—something everyone who has a dream of some sort can relate too. Ice Cube also plays the no-nonsense manager role well, he’s quick to put the other characters into place when necessary—a norm for him role-wise as well.

Overall, the film feels a bit nostalgic to other LA-based, music industry flicks. It’s not as edgy as the recent rendition of Bradley Cooper’s ‘A Star Is Born.’ It definitely has its own free and easy feel, so it’s an ideal film to check out just to enjoy some great music (which there is quite a ton of ) and on-par acting, and it won’t take a lot of emotional capacity to do so. The film also brings out the realities of working in the tumultuous industry that is entertainment, but it does so in a way that shows the realities, just in a more light-hearted avenue.

‘The High Note’ drops on VOD May 29.

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